The messenger signed and titled in Greek and dated '1981' (upper left) oil and golden leaf on canvas 250 x 360 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Athens.
I paint golden riders who now live only in our dreams A. Fassianos
A masterpiece of Fassianos's mature period painted at the height of his creative powers, The messenger is the most significant work by the painter ever to appear on the auction market. Monumental in scale, magnificent in its simple grandeur and utterly characteristic in style and sentiment, this striking canvas is a tour de force that encompasses all the defining elements of Fassianos's unique expressive language and confirms his position as one of the great masters of postwar Greek art.
Captured in sharp profile, displaying typical ancient Greek features and set against a solid silvery background that accentuates his heroic scale, the common horseback rider is remoulded into an archetypal figure echoing the timeless symbolism of the ancient Greek vase iconography. "As in ancient pottery, Fassianos's modern figures are captured in an eternal contre-jour which renders them both precise and timeless. These figures inhabit a land which might well be Greece, a totally luminous and airy land, an Aeolian land. The wind which tosses the hair of Fassianos's figures is the same wind which pervades Homer's epics and fills Odysseus's sails on his way to meet the Sirens." 1 "The painter has acknowledged the countless hours he has spent at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens studying ancient pottery, especially white lekythoi. His drawing only confirms his confession. A bent in the line, a twist of the curve, skilful foreshortening, and the body attains volume and weight." 2 By rejecting the illusionistic representation of space, insisting on flat areas of undifferentiated colour and adhering to the flatness of the canvas, Fassianos is reckoned as worthily carrying on the artistic legacy of Theofilos's naivete and the stylistic principles of the legendary 1930s generation.
Full of life and virile energy, the golden messenger roams the verdant landscape and at the same time he and his two robust horses seem as immobile as a sculptural complex or a frozen image of an old and recurrent dream. "I simply paint whatever touches me, whatever I feel about life. Golden riders who now live only in our dreams." 3 According to Koichi Tanikawa, one of Japan's most vibrant artists, Fassianos's appeal lies in the fact that his work makes one imagine a life with warm, southern sunshine, a carefree, leisurely pleasure, and the bliss of being satisfied with oneself. And these are the effects also found in Picasso at Antibes, Bonnard at Le Cannet, and Dufy in Nice." 4 In the same vein, art critic H. Kambouridis notes: "What makes Fassianos's work so fascinating is that he confronts us with a child's innocence and frankness, despite his well-informed background and experience. His creativity, innocence and childhood joy with which he made his first toys or sketches on the ground or a piece of paper, have remained intact. From this reservoir he draws energy and remains ever charming to our eye and soul." 5
1. J. Lacarriere, 'A Shadow Play' in Fassianos - Mythologies of Everyday Life, exh. cat., National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 2004, p. 24 2. M. Lambraki-Plaka, 'The Art of Alekos Fassianos - A Popular Paganism' in Fassianos - Mythologies of Everyday Life, p. 14 3. A. Fassianos, Today and Tomorrow and Yesterday [in Greek], Kastaniotis publ., Athens 1990, p. 48 4. K. Tanikawa, 'A Grecian Smile' in Fassianos Drawings, Adam publ., Athens 1994, p. 24 5. H. Kambouridis, preface in the Fassianos exhibition catalogue [in Greek], Larissa Contemporary Art Centre, Larissa 1997, p. 7